The independent government watchdog group Integrity Florida, Progress Florida and The Tea Party Network are raising concerns about the lack of transparency and accountability for a $700,000 bonus plan being considered by the board of directors of Enterprise Florida. Enterprise Florida is a taxpayer-funded entity created by the Florida Legislature that operates as the state’s commerce department.
In a letter to Governor Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who all serve on the board of directors of Enterprise Florida, the bipartisan group states:
“Secretary of Commerce Gray Swoope and his staff at Enterprise Florida are seeking your approval of a proposal to allow them to exceed one million dollars in bonus pay within the last twelve months. On September 13, 2012, the Enterprise Florida board of directors voted in favor of $497,500 in bonuses for Secretary Swoope and his staff.
On August 8, 2013, the Enterprise Florida board will consider a proposal for an additional $630,000 bonus pool just for the staff and a separate, yet to be disclosed, bonus package for Secretary Swoope. Secretary Swoope’s last bonus of $70,000 was approved at the September 2012 Enterprise Florida board meeting, despite the item never appearing on the board agenda. Secretary Swoope’s proposed 2013 bonus is not on your August 8 meeting agenda, which was just published online on August 2, less than a week before your upcoming vote on the bonus plan, an agenda item buried on page 26.”
The letter notes, “There are also major flaws in the Enterprise Florida bonus criteria, including allowing the staff to count jobs promised towards their jobs created goal. Basically, the Enterprise Florida staff negotiates agreements with companies promising jobs in exchange for subsidies, then counts pledges that companies might create jobs in the future as performance that merits bonuses. Jobs promised by Enterprise Florida board member companies who negotiate incentive deals with Enterprise Florida staff are also allowed to be counted towards the staff performance goals for their bonuses, which clearly presents a conflict of interest.”
The bipartisan coalition recommends the following remedies:
Ensure Enterprise Florida complies with the law. We urge you to consider delaying the August 8 vote on the Secretary of Commerce and Enterprise Florida staff bonuses until you are able to assure taxpayers that the organization’s operating budget is in compliance with the requirements of Florida Statutes Section 288.904(2)(a).
Increase transparency. We encourage the Enterprise Florida board of directors to be more transparent about its practices by posting online complete agendas of all meetings of the board and board committees at least a week in advance, posting online minutes immediately following meetings and providing online access to audio or video recordings of all committee and board meetings in a timely manner online.
Increase accountability. We encourage the Enterprise Florida board of directors to protect Florida taxpayers with a more accountable process for staff performance recognition and awards that avoids conflicts of interest. Any incentive compensation plan for the Secretary of Commerce and Enterprise Florida staff should be based on actual results that benefit Floridians rather than promises alone.
The letter is signed by Mark Ferrulo, Executive Director of Progress Florida, Dan Krassner, Executive Director of Integrity Florida and Catherine Baer, Chair of The TEA Party Network.